J.K. Simmons Hosts SNL: Watch Video of the Best and Worst Sketches!

J.K. Simmons may be the least-recognizable name to serve as Saturday Night Live host during the show’s landmark 40th season. But the beloved character actor — who just scored an Oscar nomination for Whiplash — seemed on paper like a great choice for the gig, thanks to his ability to disappear into roles in everything from Oz to The Closer to Growing Up Fisher (to his ads for Farmers Insurance).

Alas, while many of the episode’s sketches had even fewer laughs than slabs of bacon in a vegan restaurant kitchen, Simmons did prove up to the task in the instances where he had access to solid punch lines.

And hey, at least D’Angelo’s brand of laid-back soul delivered a full 10 minutes without any compulsion to hit the fast-forward and/or mute buttons.

Below, my picks for best and worst of the night:

BEST: Teacher Snow Day
The bulk of the Season 40 cast got in on the hilarious, pre-taped fun with a rap about overworked educators enjoying a weather-related break even more than their students. Simmons got to shine as a pants-free principal, but best-in-show honors go to Cecily Strong as a pot-smoking teacher spitting rhymes like, “Zero f—ks given/ This is blizzard livin’!”

BEST: Casablanca Re-write
Kate McKinnon stole the show playing Ingrid Bergman as Ilsa Lund in an “alternate ending” to the 1940s classic. Except, in this version, McKinnon’s character couldn’t wait to get on the plane — at least after Simmons’ first mention of the danger of concentration camps in this wartime scenario. OK, the setup was a slippery one, but McKinnon’s daffy line readings sold it.

BEST (OR WAS IT WORST?): Japanese Messy Boy
Simmons committed completely to this setup about a dad at an elementary-school career day discussing his job as an infantilized, bib-wearing plaything paid handsomely by rich Japanese women to eat sloppy foods — sans napkins. As the description of his work got more absurd, Simmons maintained an amusing cool — as if he were discussing work no more exotic than accounting or real estate or research chemistry. Yeah, I laughed a few times — but then I wondered if there was something wrong with me, so…

WORST: The Jay-Z Story
Former featured player (and current writer) Mike O’Brien got back in front of the camera in this black-and-white pre-taped “documentary” about the life of Jay-Z — only with the white comic taking over the role of the famous rapper. Problem was, O’Brien’s characterization never went beyond the idea of “outwardly pasty” equalling anything other than utterly milquetoast. How lazy — and ultimately unimaginative. All together now, “L to the izz-A, M to the izz-E!”

WORST: Opening Monologue
It mades sense that the show’s writers might try to riff on Simmons’ stern musical taskmaster from Whiplash — with the actor rejecting drummer after drummer for a musical monologue number. Unfortunately, none of the scenarios went beyond the rudimentary “you suck!” and into darker, wackier or more absurdist places. Leslie Jones scored a guffaw when she finally fought back against Simmons’ faux bluster, but by then, the bit had lost its comedic rhythm.

OK, your turn. What did you think of Simmons’ SNL episode? Take the poll below, then sound off in the comments!

Comments are monitored, so don’t go off topic, don’t frakkin’ curse and don’t bore us with how much your coworker’s sister-in-law makes per hour. Talk smart about TV!

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  1. Brandy says:

    I actually really liked the jay Z sketch. I laughed through the whole thing!

    Also loved Miss Trash 2015, and WU was especially good this week.

  2. Daya says:

    What, no knock on Spidey like with James Franco’s first appearance? Sad.

  3. disappointed says:

    Hated the Casablanca re-write. Joking about the Holocaust needs care and thought. Joking about the Holocaust 4 days after the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz needs to be rethought and shelved. Rewriting Casblanca: an idea with potential gone horribly wrong.

    • WonderWaage says:

      If one seeks to be offended, one will be offended.

    • rowan77 says:

      Good grief. I’m Jewish, my family lost people in the war and I’m not even remotely offended. I thought the sketch was funny and Kate McKinnon’s Ingrid Bergman’s no’s were hilarious. Stop looking for reasons to be offended.

      • disappointed says:

        Your phrasing reveals that you are not very informed about the Holocaust. It’s strange that you insist all people who react to a Holocaust joke must think alike. Else you must be condescending and insulting to them. This insistence that all must think alike about Holocaust humor, shows that you are either uninformed about Judaism and the Jewish community or not applying what you know. You know how the famous Jewish saying goes…or maybe you don’t.

        Nice Irish screen name.

        • rowan77 says:

          I was born in England and my ancestors came from Poland, Austria and Russia. I never said all Jews must think alike. I was also educated repeatedly on the Holocaust both in my secular education and religious. My point still stands. Comedy is tragedy plus time. Did you also hate The Producers? Did the song Springtime for Hitler make you angry? What about Life Is Beautiful, which was funny and touching and took place in a concentration camp?

          Stop claiming what happened 70-80 years ago happened to you. It was awful, but we can make fun of Nazi’s and Hitler and war. IF you can’t, you shouldn’t watch.

          • disappointed says:

            You seem touchy, Maybe you’re just “looking for reasons to get offended.” ;) Your assumption was “I’m not offended, therefore it’s stupid and unjustified if you get offended. I am entitled to rudely lecture you about it.” That line of logic does assume that everyone must not be offended, if you aren’t, i.e.”everyone must think like me.” Once again, I refer you to the famous saying. In this last post, you once again lecture me and tell me that my thoughts on the subject should be like yours. I don’t agree. People are different.

            I said the jokes should have taken more care and the timing, 4 days after International Holocaust Remembrance Day, was bad. If you enjoyed the parody, you can do so without demanding other people react the way you did. I’m not sure what your point is about other Holocaust jokes. SNL is not The Producers and vice versa. You are making some big assumptions there and in the rest of your post.

            Your phrasing did and does reflect ignorance, Your demand for uniformity ignores the history of Judaism and the Jewish community. Your demand for uniformity on reactions to jokes about the Holocaust, also has a special kind of irony. You are welcome to continue down that path, if you like. I’m going to turn my attention elsewhere.

          • rowan77 says:

            Time for you to stop being a hypocrite and stop looking for things to be offended by. You sound like a twit whose trying o very hard to be right so you bend what others say to fit your narrative. At no time did I demand uniformity. No one cares if you were offended by a comic portrayal of Ilsa reacting like most people would if threatened with being captured by Nazi’s and kept in a concentration camp. They’d want to get the hell out of there. IF you think they wouldn’t then you are a fool. Now you’re done.

  4. Brian says:

    update was good never wanted it to end

  5. James Marshall says:

    This was probably the best SNL I have seen in years. I laughed out loud through the entire show. That has not happened in a long time. KUDOS!

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  8. OhMy says:

    I most definitely used the fast forward during the musical selections — dreadful.

  9. Dave smith says:

    The absolute worst snl ever

  10. Tran says:

    I give the J.K. Simmons episode of SNL a C. The Closer alum gave it his best but the sketches had mixed results and I still enjoy Weekend Update with Colin Jost & Michael Che (SNL haters gonna hate). Can’t wait come February 15th for the 40th Anniversary Special.

  11. I liked the JayZ sketch as well as the Casablanca sketch. I also liked the takedown of the Grammys during Weekend Update.

    • dude says:

      Iggy Azalea wake up and smell the azaleas…YOU’RE WHITE! The last time someone stole that much from black people, people dressed like me.

  12. dude says:

    I loved The Jay Z Story. Miss Trash got some laughs as well although I love the idea of it more that I did that actual execution.

  13. The MAC says:

    That second D’Angelo song was AWESOME!!!

  14. Fanology says:

    Where was my Law & Order sketch?!?! Am I the only one who was waiting forJK Simmons’ Dr Skoda to reappear… with Cecily as one-dimensional female ADA and Leslie Jones as Van Buren.

  15. powerturtle90sdudemon says:

    The Pushie skit (with the Clippy expy hindering the elderly man’s computer experience) aired while Bill Farmer was winning an Annie Award for his work as Goofy in the new Mickey Mouse shorts (see “Dear Goof Troop, Happy Birthday Goof Troop”). I liked the timing of that

  16. Am I the only one who thought the teacher snow day sketch was a great idea executed really poorly? The tempo was completely wrong for that song and the rapping fell flat, so for me it just didn’t work at all.

    Miss Trash USA also had a lot of potential, but the jokes weren’t funny enough. The only two sketches I liked all night were the Japanese Messy Boy sketch and the Kate Mckinnon Casablanca one, which I might be quoting months to come. Overall a subpar episode for me. Here’s hoping to next week (and that Ghostbusters will be funny.)

  17. Amber says:

    Shoutout to Michael for that flawless Jay-z pun. Can’t believe no one else made that joke.

  18. sschimel says:

    Really terrible except for snow day. Michael Che’s worst flub ever and that’s saying something. And the lampooning of Clippy? That was relevant… 10 years ago!

  19. Linda F says:

    No one’s mentioned my favorite sketch, the Totino’s Super Bowl Activity Pack for Women. That was such a perfect parody of some of the sexist “good little housewife” ads. Vanessa Bayer was perfect. I thought J.K. Simmons did well with the material he was given.

  20. leigh says:

    This episode was at least funny compared to some of the other episodes this season. There were ups and downs but mostly ups. I gave it a B.

  21. Ann VerWiebe says:

    I really thought the opener made almost no sense unless you had seen Whiplash (I saw it last weekend and the dialogue was straight from the film).